Public Health: The 3rd Definition

Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a condition whereby “the quality of life is improved through the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and control of disease.” Various definitions have also been applied to health throughout time. In some instances, however, health has been reduced to survive an illness or to avoid gaining weight. There have even been attempts to diminish its meaning altogether through the processes of medicalization and specialization. The word health, in our political lexicon, has taken on a completely different meaning, often associated with governmental intervention and medicalization.

However, there is a significant part of the definition that should not be undervalued. The third definition is that “health is the sum of the habits, standards, and knowledge of the persons who constitute the population.” Thus, persons living in an industrialized society are exposed to a variety of risks factors, many of which they might not be aware of, and many of which might cause them harm. In this light, health becomes a complex issue, which needs to be addressed on many different levels.

As an overview, public health considers the burden of diseases, disability, mortality, morbidity and prevention. Each of these areas is further broken down into specific areas of concern, such as community development, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, professional education and food management. As the United States engages itself more actively in global health issues, such as poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health services, it is important to remember that a strong public health system is the single most important factor in the prevention of disease. By far, the best solution to health problems in the USA is a Healthy People Program.